Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit will decide in 3-4 days on the state government’s 2018 recommendation to grant remission to A G Perarivalan, who is serving life term in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, the Supreme Court was informed on Thursday. A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer and Indu Malhotra, hearing a plea of the 46-year-old convict seeking suspension of his life sentence in the case till the MDMA probe is completed, posted the matter for further hearing after four weeks.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that although ASG K M Nataraj is appearing for Centre in this matter, he has received instructions to inform the court that a decision in the matter will be taken in three to four days. The bench said it is good that Governor is deciding the issue and had the decision been taken earlier, it could saved the court lot of efforts.
Mehta regretted for approaching the court late. The bench then asked senior advocate Gopal Shankarnaryanan, appearing for Perarivalan, whether this arrangement was acceptable to him or not.
Shankarnarayanan said it is good that competent authority is taking a decision but requested the court to keep the plea pending, in case the decision is not acceptable to them. Advocate Balaji Srinivasan was appearing for the state government in the case.
The bench recorded the submission of Mehta and then posted the matter for further hearing after four weeks. The state government had earlier told the top court that the Cabinet has already passed a resolution on September 9, 2018 and recommended to the Governor for the premature release of all seven convicts in the case.
Besides Perarivalan, other six convicts sentenced to life imprisonment include Nalini Sriharan, her husband Murugan, Santhan, Jayakumar, Ravichandran and Robert Pyas. All the seven were convicted by a special TADA court for their role in the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991 during an election rally at nearby Sriperumbudur and sentenced to death,but later it was commuted to life imprisonment.
Earlier, on November 27 last year the top court had extended by one week the parole of Perarivalan, and directed the state to provide escort to him while visiting the doctor. Perarivalan was first granted parole from November 9-23, last year by the Madras High Court on medical grounds, which was extended by the top court after he had submitted that he has 25 per cent blockage in kidney and needs surgical intervention.
The CBI, in its affidavit of November 20, last year has told the apex court that the Tamil Nadu Governor has to take a call on grant of remission to Perarivalan. The probe agency has said that Perarivalan is not the subject matter of further investigation carried out by the CBI-led Multi-Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA) which is conducting a probe on the aspect of larger conspiracy as per the mandate of the Jain Commission report.
On November 3, last year the top court had expressed unhappiness over the pendency of a plea by a convict seeking pardon in the case for over two years with the Tamil Nadu Governor. The CBI, in its 24-page affidavit, said, It is for the His Excellency Governor of Tamil Nadu to take a call on the issue whether remission is to be granted or not and in so far as relief is concerned in the present matter CBI has no role.
Perarivalan’s counsel had earlier said his role was only limited to procuring nine-volt batteries, which were allegedly, used in the improvised explosive device (IED) that had killed Gandhi. The top court had earlier dismissed a plea of Perarivalan seeking recall of the May 11, 1999 verdict upholding his conviction, saying the material brought on record does not inspire confidence to interfere with the verdict in which he and three others were initially awarded the death sentence, later commuted to life term.
Gandhi was assassinated on the night of May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu by a woman suicide bomber, identified as Dhanu, at a poll rally. Fourteen others, including Dhanu herself, were also killed. In its May 1999 order, the top court had upheld the death sentence of four convicts — Perarivalan, Murugan, Santham and Nalini.
In April 2000, the then Tamil Nadu Governor had commuted the death sentence of Nalini on the basis of the state government’s recommendation and an appeal by former Congress president and Rajiv Gandhi’s widow Sonia Gandhi. On February 18, 2014, the top court had commuted the death sentence of Perarivalan to life imprisonment, along with that of two other prisoners — Santhan and Murugan — on the grounds of an 11-year delay in deciding their mercy pleas by the Centre.